Archive for July 21st, 2008

21
Jul
08

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

This one’s in a world all its own.

 

Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman. Directed by Christopher Nolan

 

The story: some time has passed in Gotham City since “Batman Begins.” Rachel Dawes (now played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) is working with and dating head D.A. Harvey Dent (Eckhart). “The Batman” has been cleaning up the streets of Gotham, inspiring copycat fanboy crimefighters. The police (except for Gordon) aren’t sure what to make of Batman. The city’s crime bosses are dwindling block-by-block and are propositioned by a Hong Kong national named Lou to hold their money since the police are catching them one-by-one using irradiated money. Batman/Bruce Wayne is dealing with the copycats, Rachel being with Dent, and his internal struggle of being the “hero of Gotham City,” and the police.

 

Entering the scene is The Joker (Ledger in his final performance). Maniacal and scheming, he (in the words of Michael Caine) “just wants to watch the world burn.” Whatever he plans on doing the only person who knows the plan is him, and he’s not letting anyone in on it. Anyone.

 

That’s as much as I’m going to tell you about the story. There is so much going on in this film that to tell you anything else you may want to see it more or may want to see it less when this is the type of film that can’t entirely be presented on paper; it is truly an experience. The Nolan Brothers (Chris and Johnathan) have a nearly perfect script. The theme of “what is a hero?” resonates so much between Dent and Wayne; the “White Knight” and the “Dark Knight” of Gotham.

 

And everyone does as well as they had in “Batman Begins.” Gyllenhaal did a good job as Rachel Dawes. Some may prefer her to Katie Holmes but when it comes down to the line, the character is so small it doesn’t make a lot of difference who plays her.

 

And you, dear reader, are wanting to know my thoughts on Heath Ledger’s performance. I’ll be the first to say that I have never really followed him in too many movies; I’ve seen him do a part here or there, but that was about it. Saying that, the Joker that Ledger portrays is something else entirely. Any time he’s on the screen, the film’s tone suddenly shifts. If you didn’t know Ledger was playing the character, you wouldn’t have known it was Ledger.

 

As for Bale, this time around Batman is more menacing; lower, more whispering/gravelly voice and hatred in his eyes. “Batman Begins” was apparently a warm-up.

 

I’ll take a moment to talk about the Bat Pod (Bat Cycle). Before I saw “Batman Begins” I saw the “Tumbler”/Batmobile. I thought the design sucked. Watching it in “Batman Begins,” I was like, “Dude, where do I sign up for one of those?” Same thing applies to the Bat Pod. Once you see it on screen it’s way cooler.

 

I do have one complaint on the movie: The Scarecrow. So much time was spent in the first movie building up this villain who used a hallucinogenic compound to incite his terror. He gets a small scene in the beginning of the film where he gets captured along with a gang and Batman wannabes. A cameo for the sake of a cameo? I thought Nolan was above that.

 

Should you see this? It’s dark, brooding, but with clever action sequences. This movie is on a plane of existence of its own. Should you watch this just for Heath Ledger? Only if you get nothing from watching a Batman movie. Is this better than “Batman Begins?” It’s just as good. Who’s my favorite actor to play “The Joker?” No comment.

 

My grade: A

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21
Jul
08

Movie Review: Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?

 

Not what I expected.

 

Starring Morgan Spurlock. Directed by Morgan Spurlock.

 

I remember back a few years ago when a documentary called “Super Size Me” was released. In it a guy from New York City (Morgan Spurlock) wanted to see what would happen if he ate McDonald’s fast food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a period of 30 days. Contrived, true, but never before had a documentary shown as what we do to ourselves. Following that FX network gave him a show and he produced “30 Days,” where various people did things for 30 days to see what would happen to them: one mom did binge drinking to show her newly college-attending daughter would would happen, a guy became Muslim, and even Morgan and his wife decided to see if they could live on minimum wage (both him and his wife ended up in the hospital). When he announced he was going after Public Enemy #1, Osama Bin Laden, I had high hopes for what he would find, if anything.

 

“Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden,” falls short of expectations. Spurlock, expecting a baby within a few months, decided that he could try making the world safer for his kid if he could hunt down and bring to justice OBL. Whether you believe in his reasoning or not (a little past contrived if you ask me) you’re in for a trip to countries that hate us, or rather the American government (a resentment felt even inside the U.S.)

 

From New York to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Tora Bora, Tel Aviv, and back Spurlock finds what citizens in other countries really think about us: they hate the American government, not so much the people. Through animated sequences an explanation is given as to who the U.S. Sided with and why, which leads to understanding why others can be so pissed at us. And with the fact that the American people are shielded from this information (or blissfully ignorant) we have a deeper look into ourselves.

 

My complaints about this movie: the beginning starts with immature computer animation. In it a CG Spurlock does battle with a CG Bin Laden “Mortal Kombat”-style, using everything from “Redneck Power” to a “power mustache.” This would have worked better if it had been restructured to the end of the film; it was amusing, but not needed.

 

Once you get past that Spurlock goes on the hunt for OBL but twenty minutes it becomes “I’m an expecting father. What advice to do you have for me? By the way, what do you have against America?”  The actual “hunt” seems to be derailed by constant worry about becoming a dad and missing his wife’s delivery which brings me to ask, why did he leave so close to the end of his wife’s pregnancy?

 

What did impress me about the film is the fact that rich people not caring about the lower levels/citizenry is a concept not confined to the U.S; the Middle East has malls as well as shantytowns. Then again, they also have villages wiped out by tanks and artillery. If Spurlock wants to visit places that have that “third world feel,” he should do more traveling across the States.

 

I’ll recommend this film for people who want to see what other cultures think of us. For those who already know here’s another factoid for ya: they love wrestling. Who knew?

 

Does he find the Notorious OBL? His “journey” ends in Pakistan where all “intelligence” points to (except the Pakistanis, who say he’s in Afghanistan). Looking at a giant metal sign that says “Attention Foreigners: No trespassing beyond this point…” Spurlock stops and turns around. “I’ve got a kid coming. It’s not worth it.”

 

My grade: C+/B-